Many amateur chefs don’t know what they’re missing. Though they have cheap, inefficient pots and pans, they don’t realize it because they’ve never used really good cookware. The right cookware, however, makes a huge difference in how easily your meals come together.
You don’t have to spend a fortune for good cookware, either, as long as you consider these important guidelines.
What To Look At
Heat conductivity is one of the most important features to look for in pots and pans. Some materials conduct heat better than others. Copper is considered the best heat conductor and stainless steel the worst. The better conductivity your cookware has, the more evenly your food will cook. Cookware with good conductivity also reacts more quickly when you turn up or down your heat source.
Reactivity is a problem with some cookware; the metals used in the pans can react poorly with certain foods. Aluminum is a bad choice for dishes with tomatoes, for example.
Durability should also be a consideration. When you buy the best cookware you can afford, you want it to last. Stainless steel is perhaps the longest lasting cookware you can buy.
Care should be easy. Most of us don’t want to polish our pots and pans every night. Copper takes a lot of work to maintain, whereas stainless steel does not.
Types of Cookware Materials
An excellent heat conductor, aluminum is often a part of cookware made from other materials. However, unless treated with anodization, it scratches very easily and can react with acidic foods.
Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron pots and pans are durable, have great heat retention, and are relatively inexpensive. However, they must be seasoned (which requires cleaning, heating the cookware and melting a fat in it, allowing it to cool, and wiping away excess fat before storing).
Popular among pros, copper is a superb heat conductor. Like aluminum, it’s often seen between layers of other cookware materials. However, copper cookware is expensive, reacts with acidic foods, and requires regular polishing to remain in good condition.
Stainless Steel Cookware
For cookware, stainless steel is a popular choice. It’s durable, relatively inexpensive, easy to maintain, doesn’t react, and is scratch resistant. On the other hand, it’s not a great conductor of heat.
Clad pots and pans are layered with various materials. For example, you might find stainless steel cookware with a layer of copper in its base to make the cookware a better conductor of heat.
Cookware : Cooking Surfaces
You’ll also need to consider what cooking surface you prefer. Nonstick cookware has a coating that allows you to use fewer fats. It’s a good choice for healthy cooking and for frying eggs. Every chef should have at least one nonstick pan. However, aerosol cooking sprays shouldn’t be used with nonstick pans, since they leave residue behind. (You can, though, spray the food directly.)
Stick resistant cookware is popular for deglazing and searing. Seasoned cast iron and stainless steel pans are stick resistant when oil and medium temperatures are used.
Infused surfaces literally infuse polymer into metal so they sear and deglaze much like stainless steel.
Some cookware has a porcelain enamel coating to make it easy to clean. This surface is good for stock pots, roasters, and Dutch ovens.
Riveted handles are the most durable. Screwed on handles may require periodic tightening.
Finally, while it is cheaper to buy a cookware set, consider that you may like one type of pot or pan for a certain technique or food, and another type of cookware for another food or technique. Therefore, it may make more sense to either buy individual pieces, or buy a set and supplement it as necessary.
Check out the video version of this article on YouTube : Choosing Cookware